The simplicityof gentleness is misleading. It is an active passivity that may become anextraordinary force of symbolic resistance and, as such, become central to bothethics and politics. Gentleness is a force of secret life-giving transformationlinked to what the ancients called potentiality. Gentleness is a power.
Gentleness is an enigma. Taken up in a double movement of welcoming and giving, it appears on the threshold of passages signed off by birth and death. Because it has its degrees of intensity, because it is a symbolic force, and because it has a transformative ability over things and beings, it is a power.
The simplicity of gentleness is misleading. It is an active passivity that may become an extraordinary force of symbolic resistance and, as such, become central to both ethics and politics. Gentleness is a force of secret life-giving transformation linked to what the ancients called potentiality.
In our day, gentleness is sold to us under its related form of diluted mawkishness. By infantilizing it our era denies it. This is how we try to overcome the high demands of its subtlety-no longer by fighting it, but by enfeebling it. Language itself is therefore perverted: what our society intends to give the human beings that it crushes "gently," it does in the name of the highest values: happiness, truth, security.
From listening to those who come to me and confide their despair, I have heard it expressed in every lived experience. I have felt its force of resistance and its intangible magic. In mediating its relation to the world, it appears that its intelligence carries life, saves and amplifies it.
Anne Dufourmantelle, philosopher and psychoanalyst, taught at the European Graduate School and wrote monthly columns for the Paris newspaper Liberation. Her books in English include Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Being; Blind Date: Sex and Philosophy; and, with Jacques Derrida, Of Hospitality. Katherine Payne teaches at the City University of New York. Vincent Salle teaches at the City University of New York. Catherine Malabou, holder of Visiting Chairs in numerous North American universities, teaches philosophy at the CRMEP (Center for Research in Modern European Philosophy) at Kingston University (UK). The most recent of her books are, Changing Difference: The Feminine in Philosophy, and, with Judith Butler, You Will Be My Body for Me.
Foreword: Philosophy in Furs by Catherine Malabou
The Sensory Celebration (I)
Justice and Forgiveness
A Silent Transformation
Feeling and Sensibility
The Symbolic Force of Gentleness
Sensory Celebration (II)
"Master and Man" by Tolstoy
The Sensory Celebration (III)
Trauma and Creation
At the Confines
The Sensory Celebration (IV)
Gentleness of Melancholy
A Gentle Revolution
"Power of Gentleness achieves [the] incredible feat of being a gentle book. . . . . One of the most surprising points of the book is the argument that the true enemy of gentleness is . . . gentleness. Fake gentleness, mawkishness, this passivity sold to us via every new age commercial technique. . . . True gentleness contains an element of negativity, . . . and therein lies the crux of the problem: gentleness has its own dialectic. . . . Power of Gentleness is an important text that teaches us, comforts us, disturbs us too, that in any case touches us, always, at every moment. From this book that is so devoted to fragility, the reader emerges-and this is incontestable-that much stronger." from Catherine Malabou's Foreword
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